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Unilever's Colour Cuts Could Save Millions

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Advertising Age highlights another recession-busting strategy that has the potential to save billions in packaging.

Anglo Dutch consumer giant Unilever (whose CEO , Paul Polman, was one of three Unilever execs caught up in the Mumbai attacks) could save between $13m and $26m in Europe on packaging costs by cutting back on the number of colours it uses.

Its Project Rainbow colour harmonisation programme has created a new palette, reducing the number of colours Unilever uses from 100 to six without any apparent damage to familiar brands such as Hellman's and Flora.

London-based brand identity specialists LFH initially carried out an audit for the business and identified a way of using its own colour harmonisation process, Chapter 1, to save costs by using less ink.

According to LFH managing director Mano Manorahan, it has meant "substantial cost savings" with no compromise on quality for Unilever. In a before and after test of packaging, customers couldn't tell the difference between the reduced-palette packaging and the old version.

Matthew Daniels, Unilever's best practice manager, told one reporter that the team was "quite frankly blown away by the results -- no-one could believe that such quality could be realised when using six colours."

Now in use on Unilever's food brands, the Rainbow process also has the potential to save time and money on printing production costs for other businesses, although economies of scale will be most significant in large organisations. Even so, it could open the way for co-printing of designs -- something hitherto limited by the need to clean and recalibrate machinery for each new job.

It should also be less wasteful -- fulfilling chief marketing officer Simon Clift's recent pledge to keep investing in environmental innovation. He sees the current economy as a spur to companies to become more creative in saving costs and reducing waste.

"All consumer behaviour regarding the environment is about delegating to manufacturers. It puts a lot of responsibility onto us. In the end it is an important challenge to us.
Consumers' relationship to capitalism is going to go through a fundamental change through this financial crisis. People will realise unleashed capitalism does not have all the answers."
(Photo: Pingu1963, CC2.0)

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